26 Tips on How House-Sitting Can Turbo-Charge Your Location Independent Lifestyle

Although we returned to our home city of Austin, Texas, on July 3rd, our year long nomad-ing adventure has continued.  This time, though, we are nomad-ing in our hometown by house and pet sitting for friends.  Our first job will last two weeks and be immediately followed by a second house-sit of three weeks.  Over the years I have house-sat and pet-sat for many people and various beasts including dogs, cats, horses, birds, turtles, snakes, rats, rabbits, and even a pharaoh scorpion and 35 pound tortoise.

How to do house sitting

Reasons to House Sit

If you are nomadic or want to become location independent, house-sitting is a great thing to consider.  Why?  Here are some reasons:

If you’re trying to bring in a little extra income, house-sitting can be a great way to do so relatively passively.  I have been paid $300 per week to sleep in houses in the past.  I was able to continue my day job and merely returned to someone else’s home at night, made sure mail was brought in and plants were watered (someone else’s more luxurious home, by the way).

On a financial note, by house-sitting you will be able to save money on regular expenses.  Turn down your utilities at home, cut down on your phone bill, etc. by vacating your own home for the duration of the house-sit.

House-sit for free!  Not every house-sit will offer money.  Sometimes you will be asked to sit just as a favor from a friend.  Do it anyway!  Why? In addition to the money saving possibilities in #2, you will put one more house-sit experience on your house-sitting resume.  House-sitting resume?  Yes – see the next point.

There are several international house-sitting organizations (Housecarers.com and Intervac.com are just two).  Here is where things get exciting.  By joining these organizations you can apply to house-sit all over the world.  Care to spend 3 months in a French villa?  How about 6 months on the beach of Maui?  The opportunities are many and can be very appealing.  However, the jobs are fiercely competitive.  By building a house-sitting resume with references you will be more likely to get one of these amazing jobs.  Imagine, doing your mobile work from your luxurious estate instead of the previous backpacker hostel.

Get used to nomadic living.  For those of you in transition to making your work mobile, a house-sitting gig can be a great dress rehearsal.  By house-sitting you will get a feel for what it takes to live and work from a suitcase, be separated from your regular office and deal with your business away from home.  Better yet, your first house-sits will most likely be in your home-town.  If disaster strikes, you won’t be far from your own dwelling and you’ll be able to make reparations quickly.

How to Be a Super Sitter

If house-sitting sounds appealing to you you’ll want to be sure your sits are successful.  Here are some tips for having a successful sit that will result in great recommendations for your future world sits.

Make at least one home visit appointment and perhaps 2 with the home owner prior to their departure.  During your visit be sure to take a tour of the home, making notes of the owner’s requests for what they would like you to do in their absence.  Don’t be shy to ask how things work, what to do in case of malfunctions, etc.

Be sure during your visit to meet all animals to be cared for.  You and the owner should spend some time seeing that the animals are sufficiently at ease with you.  Ask the owner about the animals’ normal habits, things that might stress them, eating schedules, cage cleaning, etc.  Be sure to make written note of emergency numbers and veterinarians should the animals require attention.  Remember the animals will be somewhat stressed at the absence of their owners and presence of a stranger in their home.  Do what you can to put everyone at ease by maintaining their daily routines.

Make plans for how you and the owner will communicate in their absence.  Will they be readily available by phone, email?  If they will not be readily available, request a listing of providers to be used in case of household malfunctions.  In other words, who is their plumber, electrician, pool maintenance service, etc?

Make arrangements with the owner about how any needed services will be paid for.  If there is a costly repair needed during their absence how should it be handled?

Be sure to get a key, garage door opener, gate code, or any other necessary item or information for gaining access to the home when they leave.

Get good explanations about security systems and any other systems that you will need to manage in their absence.  For instance, during one of my house-sits, a workman appeared to wash the cars that were in the garage.  I was embarrassed to find out I had no idea where to insert the key in one of their cars in order to get it out of the driveway!  The workman didn’t know either.

Have the owner explain about any other service providers who may appear in their absence.  You want to know that you are admitting only people they are expecting.  One of my sits included visits from a housekeeper, pool man, gardener, workman, and even fountain man.  Without prior warning I would not have known whether or not to admit any of these individuals.

Be extremely respectful of the home during your stay.  Leave the home in the state it was handed to you or better.  Leave the beds with clean sheets, wash and fold towels, etc.

Have an agreement with the owner about what is available for your use.  In other words, are you welcome to use their dry goods, laundry detergent, etc. or are you expected to provide all your own things.

For longer house sits have a mutual understanding of how constant your presence must be in the house.  For instance, if you are house sitting for 6 months are you free to go away for a weekend or must you stay 100% of the time at the house.

Keep a log of events during the owner’s absence.  They may want to know if friends stopped by, packages were delivered, etc.

Organize mail, newspapers, packages, etc. in an orderly way and inform the owner what you have done with these items.

Have a brief meeting with the owner upon their return home.  Go over the events during their absence, direct them to any necessary items needing attention and welcome them home!  It’s nice to leave a touch such as a bouquet of flowers or some staples in the refrigerator for their return.

After they have had a chance to settle back in, be sure to ask the owners for a recommendation to be used for other house-sits.

How To Use House-Sitting to Turbo Charge Your Location Independence

House-sitting even in your own city can be an enjoyable experience.  However, the really exciting part comes when you can turn your house-sitting experience into an accommodation-generating machine as you travel around the world.  Here are some tips for how to make that happen.

Research some of the house-sitting organizations available on-line.  Two are mentioned above but there are many more.  Most will let you peruse the house-sit opportunities before joining.  Take a look at how many sits they have available and whether they are in countries that are interesting to you for your travels.  Do the sitting opportunities appear to be current, does it seem to be an active site?  Choose one or two to join.

Create a profile on the house-sitting sites that is unique and helps you stand out from the crowd.  You’ll want to come across as responsible, experienced and fun to work with.  List your experience plus other skills you have that may be desirable such as gardening, experience with certain types of animals, fluency in languages, etc.

Create a web-page of your own where you showcase your experience.  Link to this page from your house-sit profile.  Your page should include quotes from your glowing recommendations.  If your previous house owners agree, include photos of yourself, of the homes you’ve sat and of the animals or gardens you’ve cared for.

Many house-sitting opportunities are offered months ahead of when they are needed.  Check often and try to coordinate your own plans with sits that appear.

Contact home owners immediately when you are interested in sits.  Be sure to answer their e-mails in a timely manner and offer to talk via phone or skype as well.

Use your intuition and common sense.  Don’t end up in an uncomfortable situation due to a deranged owner or untenable house situation.  (In other words, the cabin in Alaska with 10 sled dogs, one of whom needs injections and the requirement to be able to shoot a rifle in case of bears may not be a great gig.  Yes – I saw that house-sit listed for real!)

Don’t get discouraged if it feels like you’re constantly beaten to the punch.  I have often heard back from home owners stating “we got 50 replies and chose someone else” or something similar.  It is highly competitive but the right match may come your way leading to weeks, months, or even a year of free accommodations in a great location!

22 Comments

  1. Carmen, I wish this article was posted before I began my house-sitting duty here in Antwerp, Belgium. Well, its not house-sitting like you do, my stint is for only a week. But, I do have 2 hens, 2 cats, a rabbit and a pond of fish (oh, shit, I forgot to feed the fish today!) and a few sundry choirs as part of my responsibility. Though I'm not getting a stipend for my duties, I am getting paid in beer. Well, that and a nice home to call my own until the end of the week. Now if I could score a similar gig for Bruges, that would be perfect!

    Post a Reply
    • I didn't realize you were house sitting in Belgium. That's cool. Sounds like you've got your hands full of animals not to mention the two choirs! I've never sat for choirs before! Lol.

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  2. Great list for house-sitting! We just got back from a week of house sitting in town. Even just a week out of the month means 1/4 drop in electric and grocery bills for us for the month. All while enjoying a nice big-screen tv and a pool right outside the back door for cooling breaks while working. Can't be beat!

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    • Yes, I'm replying to you from the king-sized bed overlooking the pool, hot tub and hill country sunset of my house sit. Life is good.

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  3. We have just found our first house sitting position through the family we were couchsurfing with. Not only will it save us money but we'll get to enjoy have a comfy home for a while (as we no longer have one of our own).

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  4. Brilliant article Carmen, I think showing this to the next home owners whose house you're eyeing up should give you the edge over the other wannabe house sitters:)

    I love the sound of this. And what about house swapping, have you got another post planned about that?!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Annabel! I haven't thought about house-swapping as a post yet but
      that may be a good one in the future. I'd probably need to find people with
      some experience because I haven't tried it myself yet.

      NuNomad

      Post a Reply
  5. Thanks for writing about housesitting. I have tried all the housesitting websites and have found http://www.caretaker.org to be the best for housesitting assignments. I recently started using http://www.caretaker.org and have found two housesitting assignments there so far.
    John

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      • Thanks for sharing your experience, John. I’ll have to check out caretaker.org. What do you think helped you get 2 jobs so far? —— Carmen, I receive email updates from caretaker.org every day, and all I did was reply directly to the homeowners with my resume and references, and then after the homeowners checked my references – they offered me the position.John

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  6. Great tips! I am going to use this strategy to spend some more time in the U.S. (as I am an expat in Argentina). . . any more tips on how to check things out before accepting a job that far away?

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    • Hi Gayle! Great to have you back on the site. Usually, when you're
      communicating with the home owners you'll end up exchanging several emails
      and perhaps phone/skype calls as well. These interactions will be
      opportunities for you to get a sense of who they are and whether they'll be
      good people to work for. Also, ask for photos and details about the house
      and perhaps use Google Earth to see the area and neighborhood.
      NuNomad

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  7. My husband and I just completed a 3-month housesit…the longest I've done so far. Beautiful home out in the countryside, kangaroos and wombats all over the 100-acre property, being woken up by birds….seriously, it was amazing! The only thing I had trouble with was staying productive, but I know that will be easier in the future because I figured out what works and doesn't work for me. For example, trying to create TOO much of a routine didn't work for me, which surprised me because I assumed routine was the key. But seeking out one or two fresh experiences every day did more to boost my motivation and spark creative energy than anything else.

    All the housesitting I've done has been through word-of-mouth, by the way. This most recent one we happened upon through a casual conversation at the local town fair.

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    • Sounds like you had a great gig. My housesitting so far has also been by
      word of mouth although I have come very close to taking a couple of online
      opportunities. It's interesting what you say about having difficulty
      staying productive. For me, my online work and coaching clients still
      continue so my work schedule doesn't really change by housesitting. I could
      see, though, that if I didn't have this other work, housesitting could make
      me a little restless.

      NuNomad

      Post a Reply
  8. Sounds like you had a great gig. My housesitting so far has also been by
    word of mouth although I have come very close to taking a couple of online
    opportunities. It’s interesting what you say about having difficulty
    staying productive. For me, my online work and coaching clients still
    continue so my work schedule doesn’t really change by housesitting. I could
    see, though, that if I didn’t have this other work, housesitting could make
    me a little restless.

    NuNomad

    Post a Reply
  9. There are lots of things that you need to consider when house sitting for other people. Even though it’s easy work, you have to do your job in a very efficient and professional manner. Above all, strive to always win the client’s trust.

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  10. Thanks for the great tips. You dear sound like a very “professional, organized, big hearted caregiver!” All your advise will be well taken and hopefully used!
    Michelle

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  11. This is wonderful info.  We are probably retiring soon and would love to do this, have travelled much but have never house-sat.  How hard is it to break in?  EJ

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  12. That really great , hope you all are enjoyed there.

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  13. Hi, Reading all of your Questions and Answers really helped a lot. I’m a 67 year old retired LVN. Did a lot of working with clients in there home and taking care of the home as well.I need to be a independent Houses it terms so I will not have to calm income! I just move to California from Alaska and don’t have friends to pass the word around!!! Have any feedback really need help getting the word out? Thank you Deborah

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